Emotional experiences play a big part in overall well-being. When someone has high levels of pleasurable emotions, such as happiness, they tend to have a higher level of well-being than people with large quantities of painful emotions such as anger. This theory might suggest that people who choose to be happy have more positive levels of well-being than people who choose to be angry. But according to a recent study led by Maya Tamir of the Department of Psychology at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, that is not necessarily the case.
Tamir enlisted 173 people and measured not only their preference of emotional state, happiness versus anger, but their ability to choose anger or happiness when it would help them achieve their goals. In a series of experiments, participants had to accomplish goals that required confrontation or collaboration. In confrontational situations, anger would help with goal attainment, while happiness was more useful in the collaboration goals. Tamir found that even though the participants who wanted to experience happy emotions and avoided anger had moderately high levels of well-being, those who chose anger when it was useful for goal attainment had the highest levels of well-being overall.
This finding suggests that emotional preference is important, but it is even more critical when examined in context of particular situations. This is in contrast to what would be expected. “It is reasonable to assume, therefore, that the more frequent pleasant emotions and the less frequent unpleasant emotions people want to feel, the better,” Tamir said. However, her findings suggest otherwise. When she examined those who preferred anger, despite the context, she discovered they had low levels of well-being, which was expected. But those who chose happiness overall did not have high levels of well-being when happiness was their preferred emotional state in confrontational situations. In sum, the results of this study imply that pursuing specific emotions in relation to the event at hand may be a better indicator of well-being than overall emotional preference.
Tamir, Maya, and Brett Q. Ford. Should people pursue feelings that feel good or feelings that do good? Emotional preferences and well-being. Emotion 12.5 (2012): 1061-070. Print.
© Copyright 2012 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved.
The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.